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Why Colombia’s Cocaine Industry Is Thriving | VICE on HBO (Bonus)

In Colombia, cultivation of coca, the main ingredient of cocaine, has nearly tripled over the past five years. As part of the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country has embarked on a unique experiment to try to end coca farming and production, but freeing Colombia from its cocaine problem is proving difficult. Charlet Duboc travels to the remote towns where coca farming is a way of life to examine the struggle for a cocaine-free Colombia.

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What The Deadly Wildfires Raging Across California Left Behind (HBO)

REDDING, CA — Three weeks ago, a blazing wildfire cut a twisting path through a subdivision here, destroying some homes completely and leaving others untouched.

The Strickland family left their home just before a tornado of fire ripped through their neighborhood. But they’re one of the lucky few whose house is still standing.

After traveling through 215,000 acres, the Carr fire has claimed 8 lives and destroyed more than 1,000 houses. The sheer acreage it covered made it one of the largest wildfires in the state’s history.

Now, the cleanup effort has begun.

Contractor crews hired by the state are moving through the rubble, looking for items that might leave behind dangerous chemical residue. Some of those toxic remains include the old houses that might contain asbestos, the melted fire detectors that could produce low levels of radioactivity, and any partially burned propane tanks at risk of combusting.

The clean-up crew’s ultimate goal is to leave the lot of charred home as close to habitable as possible, regardless of if residents choose to rebuild or sell. And as homeowners return to survey the damage, many are confronted with vivid memories of the fire.

“You’re just constantly reminded of all of these families that don’t have homes anymore,” said Taylor Strickland, 23, whose home was miraculously left intact.

“It doesn’t burn a certain thing,” Strickland said of the fire. “It takes what it wants, when it wants, how it wants.”

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Yemen’s Bloody War Could Get A Lot Worse (HBO)

At least 450 Yemenis have been killed in the first nine days of August, making it one of the bloodiest periods since the war broke out three and a half years ago. And it could get a lot worse.

An international coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and backed by the United States, is preparing to retake the strategic port city of Hodeidah. The operation could prove disastrous for Yemen’s most vulnerable: Seventy percent of all of Yemen’s goods enter into the country through Hodeidah, so a protracted battle could quickly turn into a humanitarian disaster, which prevents millions of people from receiving food and aid.

The UN is desperately trying to stop this attack and restart failed peace talks in the process. Its Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, is hoping to bring all sides together in Geneva on September 6.

Yet, government troops continue to advance towards the city.

“It’s going to be a fierce battle,” 23 year-old fighter Saeed, told VICE News. “The Houthis have big military capabilities — but we are advancing towards Hodeidah.”

VICE News embedded with Yemeni troops as they prepared to retake a crucial Houthi supply route, just 90 minutes from the city. But even a seemingly straightforward operation like this one descended into chaos. It wasn’t long into the advance that Saeed and several men found themselves cut off from their convoy, trapped by Houthi sniper fire. They were forced to run for cover before eventually making their escape.

“They must’ve known about our attack,” he says, as mortar fire rages around us.

A battle in Hodeidah city itself would be one of the deadliest in a war that has already claimed more than ten thousand lives and thrust 23 million more into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis . More than 120,000 civilians have fled the city in anticipation. It’s easy to see why. Not long after government forces started their push, ambulances began rolling up outside the one semi-functioning hospital in the area.

Ten-year-old Mohammed becomes the first civilian to be caught up in the crossfire. Ali Jalmoud says his son was playing in their house with a Houthi mortar hit. Dr. Mahdi Ba-Kather is the one remaining doctor in a local hospital and he’s struggling to cope with the influx of casualties. Mohammed has several shrapnel wounds — one’s hit an artery and staff are trying desperately to control the bleeding.

“We’re tying it tight to stop it” Dr. Ba-Kather explained to Mohammed as he uses gauze as a makeshift tourniquet. Lacking basic supplies or a qualified surgeon, all he can do is triage Mohammed and send him to another hospital three hours away in the hopes he survives the journey.

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A New Leaf & Quantum Supremacy (Trailer) | VICE on HBO

This week on VICE on HBO, we’re taking a look at cocaine in Colombia and the rise of quantum computing.

In Colombia, cultivation of coca, the main ingredient of cocaine, has nearly tripled over the past five years. As part of the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country has embarked on a unique experiment to try to end coca farming and production, but freeing Colombia from its cocaine problem is proving difficult. Charlet Duboc travels to the remote towns where coca farming is a way of life to examine the struggle for a cocaine-free Colombia.

And then….

Computer giants are racing to build the first quantum computer, a device with millions of times more processing strength than all the computers currently on Earth combined. This technology will harness the unusual laws of quantum mechanics to bring unimaginable advances in fields like materials science and medicine, but could also pose the greatest threat to cybersecurity yet. Taylor Wilson meets the scientists at the cutting edge of this new age of computing.

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How Mr Bags Became The Biggest Thing In China’s Luxury Industry (HBO)

Chinese consumers buy a full third of all luxury goods sold across the globe. But they’re getting sick of celebrity endorsements.

That’s where Mr Bags comes in.

Mr Bags, whose real name is Tao Liang, started out as a college student studying finance. But his real passion was women’s handbags, and so he started up a blog about it.

The content was simple: reviews of women’s handbags, advice on new trends — stuff you’d normally see in a fashion magazine. But Mr Bags struck a nerve among young Chinese who were getting bored with pushy editorials and cheesy advertising, and 4 years and 4 million followers later, he’s gone from a tiny blog to being the singular most influential voice in the Chinese handbags industry.

And he’s not just writing about bags nowadays — he’s making them. Prestigious design houses like Givenchy and Tod’s have signed him up to design limited-run bags for them.

To see how one 26 year old has flipped the Chinese luxury market on its head, watch the video above.

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Living On Death Row (Fact Trailer) | VICE on HBO

The first person ever is about to be executed with fentanyl — and it’s not Scott Dozier. But VICE News spoke to Dozier last month about what it’s like to live on death row.

Watch our extended interview with Scott Dozier here.

Watch the full episode here: https://play.hbonow.com/

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How Parkland Students Went From Teens To Activists (HBO)

Six months after a gunman killed seventeen of their classmates, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become the most recognizable faces of the gun reform. And what started as a March on Washington, DC, has now morphed into a movement with the same name: March for Our Lives.

They’ve since used that spotlight to broaden their coalition with a 20-state bus tour aimed at registering new voters electing politicians that will enact gun-reform legislation.

“It’s about creating a table that doesn’t have a limit on the seating,” said Matt Deitsch, 20, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas alum and March for Our Lives’ Chief Strategist. “It’s about creating something that every single person in this country can see themselves in.

Dubbed “Road to Change,” the tour was a highly organized, tightly managed operation that also recruited young activists from across the country to help bring attention to other forms of gun violence including suicides and shootings that occur in many inner cities.

“You can’t preach about progressing forward with unity if you don’t have every single person at the table speaking about their own story,” said Bria Smith, 17, a student from Milwaukee, who joined the tour earlier in the summer.

VICE News followed these kids on the final leg of their tour to see how this youth-led movement is managed, and to learn how they plan to keep the momentum going in the months and years that follow.

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Big Freedia Is Not Mad At Beyoncé Or Drake (HBO)

You might have heard his voice in Beyonce’s “Formation” video, or Drake’s, “Nice For What.”

Meet Big Freedia: a musician known as the “Queen of Bounce,” a genre of hip hop with New Orleans roots.

We surrounded Big Freedia with his ultimate vices–purses, massage therapy, and ice– in exchange for some honest answers about his life, in “The VICE Interview.”

First- we loosened him up with his vices.

And of course, we won Big Freedia’s heart by combining his love of ice chips with his appreciate for a nicely-formed derriere, and got him an ice butt sculpture.

“Now this is an ass I’ll eat,” said Big Freedia. “I’m addicted to ice, I like certain types of ice: like the little small pellets, or I like the really flaky ice.”

Afterwards, Big Freedia shared some personal stories (a goblet of ice chips in hand, of course).

On life as Freddie vs Big Freedia: “A lot of people think that I am trans but I’m not trans,” said Big Freedia. “I am a gay male with hair and nails. So if you say ‘he’ or ‘she’ it doesn’t matter. I know who you I am.”

He also addressed what it was like to be heard but not seen in Beyonce and Drake’s music videos.

“So a lot of people think that they didn’t want me in it visually, but our schedules didn’t line up,” said Big Freedia.” And it’s OK for me like, my voice being in it is a start. And that’s important for me and for the LGBTQ community. For me, as long as the check clear, I’m fine.”

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The State Of Unite The Right A Year After Charlottesville (HBO)

In the summer of 2017, the alt right was an internet movement, and its rally in Charlottesville was intended to prove they could operate in the real world. It proved the opposite. The marchers had promised there would be more to come — but that’s not what happened. ​
“There’s not big alt right demonstrations at present. And that is largely due to Charlottesville,” Chris Cantwell told VICE News, a year after the rally. Cantwell had been home about two weeks. He’d been charged with a felony for macing people in the 2017 torch march, and that kept him in Virginia for almost a year, either in jail or under GPS monitoring. In late July, he pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery, and was banished from the state for five years.

“There was a lot of violence, a lot of chaos, a lot of lawfare — guys went to prison over this. And that understandably caused a lot of people to reconsider whether they wanted to have anything to do with it,” Cantwell said of Charlottesville. “And there wasn’t a whole lot of agreement about how to go forward, and that, to put it charitably, left us fractured.”

The aftermath of the rally has put a crushing pressure on the alt right. It’s been booted from mainstream social media. Its leaders can’t raise much money online, because crowdfunding sites reject them, and companies that process credit card payments keep kicking them off. (Cantwell said he’s been kicked off four payment processors, and has applied and been rejected from nearly 100 more.) Marchers who showed their faces in Charlottesville were doxxed, and when their identities were posted online, many were fired.

Antifa are a menacing presence at nearly every white nationalist public event. The anti-fascists have been able to do that by infiltrating white nationalist communications networks.

Over the last year, VICE News followed several alt right figures as they tried to push the movement into the mainstream. Both Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach went out on college tours to reach out to young people, and ended up speaking to nearly empty rooms. Both quit soon after.

Cantwell lives alone, in an apartment with very dark curtains. His shelves are filled with protein powder and nutritional supplements, he has a room full of exercise equipment, and he’s taped up signs reminding him to “STOP SAYING FUCK” on the fridge and in the bathroom. His sole source of income is his racist content business. He wants the alt right to learn how to organize, meet each other in person, and keep secrets. “I try not to look at the world in terms of regrets or whatever. What I try to do is look at it in terms of lessons learned,” Cantwell said. “I learned that the alt right, for all this talk of order, is not all that orderly.”

Cantwell says that whatever the social cost of being a white nationalist, it’s worth it. The cause has given him purpose. “I already am celebrated by more people than most people are. I mean, I matter, right? Most people don’t matter,” he said. “Most people will go through the world mostly unnoticed, and they’re happy with that. I have more people who care about me than almost anybody else.”

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